So you didn’t get the news you were hoping for this year. Whether you were rejected out right from all of the schools you applied to, were rejected after interviewing or seemingly indefinitely waitlisted, it’s time to think about the next application cycle as they are due in exactly 6 months!
You might wonder what you can possibly do in 6 months to move your application from reject pile to the accept pile? Believe it or not, there is a lot that you can do!
Some tips for preparing an improved application for the next cycle:
- File review. Sometimes referred to as “postmortems,” file reviews are offered by many schools to unsuccessful applicants to help them get an idea of what the admissions committee saw in their file. Call up the schools you applied to and ask if it is possible to schedule a file review. Some schools will not schedule these until after the current application cycle has died down (late April-May). Some can be done in person, others via phone. If you meet in person, dress professionally, business casual to business would be best (don’t show up in jeans and a t-shirt) to project a mature and professional image to the school — they will notice! Be prepared for criticism. Do not be defensive, there’s no point, really. After all, admissions decisions have already been made and it’s not as if you can convince the person you are speaking to that they made a mistake and should accept you on the spot. Be prepared to ask questions about certain aspects of your application to get an idea of where your major weaknesses are — personal statement, GRE, GPA, experience, etc. Take notes and make sure you leave with a good idea of how to proceed! It will make a difference as oftentimes we have a disconnect between what we consider our biggest weaknesses and what the admissions committee considers our biggest weaknesses.
- Get more experience. This is never bad advice. But the key is to get diverse experience! Rather than accumulating hours in various small animal practices, go explore a nearby wildlife sanctuary or zoo or contact an equine vet in the area to ask if you can ride along with them. By doing this you become a more well-rounded applicant with a better grasp of the field of veterinary medicine as a whole. Admissions committees like to see students that step outside of their preferred field to explore other options as there are so many career options within the field of vet med!
- Re-evaluate the schools you applied to. I would always recommend that students apply to their instate school, for the sole reason that you’re chances of being admitted are often significantly higher than your chances of being accepted to an out of state school. But there are many people, every year, that get accepted to veterinary schools out of state, so you should definitely put yourself in the applicant pool. The question is: which out of state schools should you apply to? There are certain schools that admit more out of state applicants than others, such as Ohio. That may be reason enough to apply, but remember to consider the location of the school, the “fit” and the cost (if that is a consideration for you). Making a list of pros and cons may be advisable. Sometimes we apply to schools for no reason and overlook others. So go over the list of 28 veterinary schools in the US (and perhaps consider schools abroad, but be aware of the school’s accreditation before you decide to apply) and get a list together of schools to apply to. Unless you have good reason to apply to them (such as being an out of state applicant for all veterinary schools), I would advise against applying to more than 10 schools.
- Letters of Recommendation. They speak volumes to the admissions committee about who you are and how you are perceived by academics and veterinary professionals. There is always the possibility that someone wrote you a less than stellar recommendation, so it might be a good thing to re-evaluate your LORs. I know I personally thought I would receive a stellar recommendation from a particular professor, but it turned out that her strong letter was lacking personality. Although it was positive in all respects, it just didn’t come across as sending the message this applicant is so amazing you’d be crazy not to let her in.
- Academics – GPA, GRE, degrees, etc. There’s not much you can do to change your GPA if you’ve been in school for 3+ years, but you can make an upward trend in your grades to demonstrate that you have what it takes to thrive in an academic environment. GREs are more easily changed (for better or worse) by retaking the exam. Unless your score is well below the average of admitted applicants, I wouldn’t retake it. If you do decide to retake the GRE, make sure you take it seriously and do everything you can to do your absolute best on it — books, tutors, classes, and definitely don’t forget to utilize the free practice CD-ROM that they provide to you when you register for the exam! Some of you may wonder whether it will be beneficial for you to return to school and pursue a second bachelors or begin a masters/PhD. That is a very personal question that you need to evaluate for yourself. If there is a field you are interested in enough to pursue an advanced degree and perhaps you want to use it as a way to gain a better LOR, better GPA, etc, then go for it! It may be advisable to pursue a second bachelors as a post-bac student to get priority when registering for classes. As an extension student, you don’t get priority and it is oftentimes more difficult to access the classes you need most. Like I said, it’s up to you, but they are things to think about!
- Find something unusual to get involved in that will help your application stand out. Much of my interview in regards to international veterinary volunteer work that I got myself involved in. It doesn’t have to be veterinary medicine related, but it should definitely be something that will make you stand out!